Managing Director, BYU-Idaho University Operations
My dear brothers and sisters, I am so very pleased to be with you today. I always appreciate the prayers of those who open our devotionals, and especially today, I am particularly in need of your prayers today. The music is always so inspiring, those that perform always sound as if there is a choir of angels singing.
From the time construction started in 2006 on this facility I have stood in this location many times looking out over this area that is now finished. I imagined how wonderful the day would be when the project would be complete; when students, faculty, and staff would gather for devotional and other great events to be held in this facility. It has been exciting to be involved with the construction of this facility, to attend the dedication of this facility, and to come to devotionals over the past 18 months, but for some reason it is not as exciting for me today.
Brothers and sisters, the topic that I have chosen to speak on today is the power of prayer. I will always be grateful to my mother––who is with us today––for teaching me as young child to pray; not only to pray, but to pray daily. Prayer was always a priority in our home as I was growing up. My parents always ensured that we gathered for family prayer everyday. Many of the things that were included our family prayer were gratitude for the gospel, family, and the ability to work and provide for our needs.
My first day on the job at BYU-Idaho, which at that time was Ricks College, Chuck Frost introduced me to my staff and called on one to offer a prayer to start our meeting. Having worked in the corporate sector for many years prior to coming to BYU-Idaho, I was pleasantly surprised to know that meetings start and end with prayer at this great institution. Brothers and sisters, it may seem foreign to think that we pray about design and construction projects, facilities management issues, security and safety issues, and what the campus may need as part of its physical makeup, but it is wonderful to know all things on this campus are directed by the Lord through many prayers in all areas of this institution.
There is truly power in prayer. The Savior instructed the Nephites to watch and pray always. This instruction is for our benefit today also. 3 Nephi 18:18-21 gives us instruction, a warning, and a beautiful promise:
“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
“Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”
The instruction given is as follows:
Watch and prays always lest ye enter into temptation.
Pray unto the Father in my name.
Pray in your families, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
The warning given is:
Lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
The promises given are as follows:
Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
Your wives and your children may be blessed.
And divine protection from the adversary.
Over the years as we have raised our family, I have found great comfort in these scriptures. Verse 21 instructs us “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” One of our family members was struggling in their teenage years. I was very concerned and looking for direction. I remember clearly pondering this concern one night while I was driving home from work. I decided to call my parents for some counsel and advice. I asked them, “What did you do when I was struggling in my teenage years?” I was surprised by the answer, “The only thing we could do: we prayed for you.” I am so grateful for their prayers, and as we have talked with our children they have expressed their appreciation for our prayers for them.
Many of you are pondering starting a family or are in the early stages of beginning your families. Please read 3 Nephi 18:18-21 and consider the instruction given as you start this next phase of your life. There is great instruction given and great blessings promised in these verses.
The book of Alma has so many great examples of instruction to us about prayer, faith, fasting, and the purpose of the Atonement. Alma teaches us mightily about faith and prayer. I love Alma and I love his instruction to us. In chapter 37 as Alma was turning the plates over to his son Helaman to keep a record of his people, Alma gave Helaman great instruction in verse 21. Alma counsels Helaman to be diligent in keeping the commandments as they are written. If we are faithful in keeping the commandments with diligence, we have prepared ourselves to hear the word of the Lord when he instructs us as we pray. Alma again instructs Helaman to keep the commandments in verse 35. Then in verse 36 and 37, Alma instructs Helaman to pray for his support in all things.
“O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
“Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
The promise given in verse 37 gives us great hope “and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” Brothers and sisters, as you continue in your education do as we are instructed in these verses.
Cry unto God for all thy support.
Be prayerful every day in your studies, family and work.
Whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord.
Be prayerful and listen carefully as you apply for employment and make critical decisions for your family. If you pray for guidance at this time of your life, the Lord will guide you in all things that are necessary for your wellbeing.
In Alma 34:17-29, Amulek teaches us that the eternal plan of redemption is based on faith and repentance and that we need to pray for temporal and spiritual blessings. He gives us great instruction that we need to be humble and continue to pray. We are also instructed what to pray for, how and where we should pray, for whom we should pray, and what we need to do once we have prayed. Please listen to these verses of scripture and ponder the instruction given.
“Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
“Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
“Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
“Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
“Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
“Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
“Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
“But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
“And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
“Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.”
My father was an example in his life and my mother still is an example of these scriptures to our family. They always prayed as instructed in these scriptures. They have always prayed for our family. They prayed that their business would prosper so they could provide for their family and they have always been charitable to those in need. They have been a great example of these principles to our family.
I hope that each one of us can be humble, continue in prayer, cry unto the Lord in our homes, morning, midday, and evening, for our welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around us. The Lord knows each one of us personally. He is very mindful of our needs. He will hear and answer our prayers if we remember to ask in our times of need. Even when we ask for the simplest things, he will hear our prayers.
Years ago, when I was a Young Men president, there was a family that lived near our home with a son who was struggling. I had the opportunity to invite this young man to go boating with us. We spent several hours on the lake that day and we skied until the sun went down that evening. The boat ramp was several miles from where we were skiing and we were running low on gas. The night was very dark. We were using a spot light to find our way back to the boat ramp when the boat ran out of gas. The first thing that came to mind was it is going to be a very long night on this lake. As we talked about our options that were very limited we decided to pray for help.
We finished the prayer then sat quietly in the boat. After a short period of time that seemed long that night, we heard the sound of a small fishing boat coming toward us. We used our spotlight to get the fisherman’s attention. We explained our situation and he offered to go the boat ramp to get a five-gallon can of gas he had in his truck. The Lord was mindful of our needs that night and our prayers were answered along with an opportunity to teach this young man and some of our family members the power of prayer.
The Lord hears the simplest prayers. The gospel was restored because of the faith of Joseph Smith and his sincere prayer at age 14 after he had read James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
There is a great promise in this scripture. If we will simply ask in faith for those things that are right it shall be given. I am sure many here today can tell a story of how a simple and sincere prayer was answered. Many years ago in Adelaide, Australia, a young mother, Sister Pat Hedger, was widowed at the age of 28––left to raise 3 young children. Pat was employed as an office assistant for the South Australia Police Department and was struggling with the death of her husband. A lady in the office knew of Pat’s situation. She asked Pat if she had ever prayed for help. Pat had grown up in a home that was not necessarily active in their religion and had never learned to pray. Pat’s friend taught her how to offer a simple prayer and to ask for comfort. Pat found comfort in prayer. A simple prayer softened her heart and prepared her to accept the gospel.
About eight years after Pat had learned to pray, my companion and I knocked on her door. She was busy, so we left her a copy of the Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment. When we returned to teach Pat she related her story to us. As we taught her the first discussion, we shared the Joseph Smith story with her and she related her personal experience with prayer. We asked Pat if she would offer a prayer before we left her home that night. She accepted and offered a very simple but sincere prayer. We set another appointment for the following evening to share the plan of salvation. Because of that simple prayer she offered years before she was prepared to recognize the truth of the Book of Mormon, she was baptized a week later. Pat’s two sons were baptized the following month and her daughter was baptized several months later.
Because of a simple prayer, a family was prepared to accept the gospel. Since that time Pat served in many callings, her sons Brenton and Darrell served missions, and her daughter Julie has served in the Young Women and many other callings faithfully. About seven years ago I received an email from Pat’s son, Brenton. He had just been called to serve as a bishop and now serves on the Adelaide North Stake High Council. Through a simple prayer a young family was prepared to hear and accept the gospel and now has the opportunity for eternal life. The Hedger family continues to serve and loves the Lord because of a mother’s simple prayer in a time of need.
At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple the Lord gave the Saints great instruction about prayer and fasting. Although the Lord was talking about his temple in these scriptures, we can learn a great lesson of how we should establish our homes as place of prayer and fasting.
“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
“That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High” (D&C 109: 7-8).
This instruction sounds familiar doesn’t it? The Learning Model is such a great example of the principles taught in these scriptures of how we should approach many things in our lives.
Invite the Holy Ghost, the true teacher to teach.
Faith in Jesus Christ is a principle of power.
Act, rather than be acted upon.
Accept responsibility for your learning.
Integrate scholarly knowledge with spiritual truth.
Love, teach, and serve one another.
Alma and the sons of Mosiah had a great understanding of these principles and how we are to prepare ourselves to be servants of the Lord, prepare ourselves for our careers, prepare ourselves to lead our families, and have great success in the gospel.
“And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
“Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:1-3).
My wonderful wife and I have taken the opportunity many times throughout our marriage to call upon the Lord for special help through prayer and fasting––when our sons were serving in the mission field, when our daughter has come up against challenges, when our extended families have had challenges.
We had a great opportunity in our home to participate in special time of prayer and fasting with our children 11 years ago as my older brother was fighting for his life. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and if any of you know about this type of cancer, it is normally fatal. We invited our children to participate in a full fast for my brother. I am not sure, but I believe this was the first time all of our children together had participated in a full 24-hour fast as a family.
We opened this fast together as a family with a very sincere prayer in behalf of my brother. This fast has been an anchor in our family as to the power of prayer and fasting and has helped strengthen the faith of our entire family. Today my brother is still alive and is doing well. We consider this a miracle provided to our family through faith, prayer, and fasting. The Lord is very aware of each of us individually. He hears and answers our prayers as we ask in faith, and in his name. Ensure as you establish your home and family that you do as we are instructed in Doctrine and Covenants and in Alma. I have a strong testimony of how the Lord will bless us as we ask in faith, prayer, and fasting.
While serving as President of BYU-Idaho, Elder David A. Bednar was invited to speak at a devotional at BYU. His topic was the Atonement and the Journey of Mortality. This talk was printed in the Ensign this past April and I would highly recommend you review it. Elder Bednar stated, “The journey of mortality is to go from bad to good to better and to have our very natures changed.” Elder Bednar noted the Book of Mormon has many examples of those who were transformed by the enabling power of the Atonement through prayer. As members of the Church we are generally familiar with the cleansing power of the Atonement, but Elder Bednar teaches us so eloquently about the enabling power of the Atonement through prayer. One example he shared was how Nephi understood the enabling power of the Savior:
“Nephi is an example of one who knew, understood, and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior. Recall that the sons of Lehi had returned to Jerusalem to enlist Ishmael and his household in their cause. Laman and others in the party traveling with Nephi from Jerusalem back to the wilderness rebelled, and Nephi exhorted his brethren to have faith in the Lord. It was at this point in their journey that Nephi’s brothers bound him with cords and planned his destruction. Please note Nephi’s prayer: ‘O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound’ (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added).
“Do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? ‘Please get me out of this mess NOW!’ It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement.”
Elder Bednar helped me better understand that we should not ask the Lord to fix our problems, but ask for the Lord’s help to change our circumstances through faith and obedience to the commandments. Elder Bednar has given great instruction in the following quote:
“The implication of this episode for each of us is straightforward. As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon.”
Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that as you go forward from this university you will better understand the importance of a strong relationship with your Savior through prayer. Take time each day, morning and night, to pray to your Heavenly Father, have a prayer in your heart throughout the day, and be obedient in all things so that the Lord may bless you. Pray for help in your education, and for assistance in taking care of your personal needs. As you establish families, pray for the Lord’s continued help in providing for them, and as we are taught in 3 Nephi 18, pray in your families unto the Father, in the name of Christ, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
It is my sincere testimony that there is great power in prayer. I have seen and continue to see great blessing poured out upon our family because of faith, prayer, and fasting. The Lord loves each of you and is waiting to pour his blessing upon you as you are faithful and obedient. This is my testimony and I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.